Happy Days was wholesome, 1950s-era Midwestern goodness brought to life. So imagine being the actress selected to date the star of the show. Lynda Goodfriend conceded that playing the girlfriend and future wife of Richie Cunningham on Happy Days was a tough part.
Goodfriend was a graduate of SMU with some TV and stage work on her acting resume. Then she and Scott Baoi, who were both on Blansky’s Beauties, joined the cast of Happy Days. Goodfriend met Happy Days creator Garry Marshall in New York, then called him when she moved to Los Angeles.
Goodfriend first played a character named Kim. Then, she took on the role of Lori Beth.
After she earned the part, she talked with the Daily Herald about the difficulty in being the girlfriend of “America’s Sweetheart.” (She was talking about Richie Cunningham, aka Ron Howard).
“It’s hard being the girlfriend of America’s sweetheart,” Goodfriend said. “You have to be a good person. You have a fight with him, and you can’t be mean. Yet, you still have conflict.”
She said: “Richie wouldn’t go with a girl who wasn’t a nice person. So I change the idea from being angry to being confused.”
Ron Howard Said ‘Happy Days’ Tried Out Goodfriend as His Girlfriend, Had Good Chemistry
Ron Howard, in an interview with the Archive of American Television, said Happy Days tried out Goodfriend as his girlfriend.
“It was one of those things where she just came in and did an episode, and the chemistry was good, and they decided to keep bringing her back,” Howard said. “It was a nice thing for Richie, finally having a steady girlfriend.
“She just had this great, winning smile and this wonderful quality,” Howard said. “And so she stuck as a running character.”
Goodfriend appeared in 79 episodes of Happy Days from 1977-84. On May 5, 1981, she and Richie were married. But since Ron Howard already had left the show, the wedding was a strange one. Fonzie stood in for Richie, who was on an Army base in Greenland. Richie and Lori Beth were married by telephone. Both Goodfriend and Howard appeared in the Happy Days series finale.
After her time at Happy Days ended, Goodfriend still stuck with acting. She appeared in Love Boat and Fantasy Island. She also had parts in Beaches, Nothing in Common and Pretty Woman. But she always was known as Richie Cunningham’s cute girlfriend.
Now 67, she’s chair of the acting department at the New York Film Academy.